Friday, November 29, 2013


Starts at 1:36

Amira Willighagen 9 years

Well it started with Kninginnedag, my brother played violin and I also wanted to do something. So I thought I'd better go to sing. I searched on Youtube a song, and then I heard opera songs, which I found very beautiful, that 's when I started singing 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

not my fault

If anything here seems the least bit offensive to you, I am sorry [though I shall not say for what].

Just blame TO, the devil, she made me do it!

letting go

About a week ago, TO and I watched a movie she had recorded to share with me – she knows I love history, and that on St Patrick's day the whole world is green.

Some Mother's Son starred Helen Mirren and Fionnula Flanagan – mothers of two of the IRA members who went on a hunger strike in 1981. Bobby Sands was the prisoner who kick started the strike, and I well remember where I was when I heard he had finally died. [Sort of makes up for my JFK ignorance, I hope].

"The troubles" [i.e. civil rights movement] in Northern Ireland were ignited sometime around 1968, after which there was a resurgence of Make Ireland Irish sentiment. The IRA became busier, and a hell of a lot of bloodshed, murder, and destruction of families ensued. [Okay – orange as well as green: I can be impartial because Australian job ads baldly stating NO IRISH had just about disappeared by the time I left school.]

Unlike the civil rights movement in the USA, there simply wasn't the endlessly replayed footage of "great" moments to quite bring the Irish thing home to Australians. No heart stopping photos of a Vietnamese girl running down a road, her body on fire, nor of a lone man with a shopping bag bravely staring down a tank in Tiananmen Square.

At the time of the hunger strikes in Maze Prison, I was aware that the principal demand of the IRA prisoners was that they be given prisoner of war status; that they should not be branded criminals. Aside from what we arty-farties would call excellent direction, editing and script-writing, the film was interesting because it showed me a whole new angle – a new context – for the hunger strike story.

Spoiler Alert [just in case by some miniscule chance you have not seen this film but might in the future].

The film opened with footage of Margaret Thatcher's arrival at No 10 in 1979:

Quite frankly, despite my professed atheism, I happen to treasure the "Prayer of St Francis" and must now add blasphemy to my list of Thatcher's sins. [And being judgmental, yet again, to mine.]

After this opening, a few characters were introduced and fleshed out after which we went straight to the room where some pompous little pommy git was in charge of bringing the troubles to an end with a policy of "isolate, demoralise and criminalise".

The primary intention was to shut down the border between Northern and Free Ireland so the IRA couldn't keep moving freely backwards and forwards. "War" does not leave innocent people untouched, and wars like this one create martyrs and sow discord where once there might have been harmony.

Not only was it a well made film, it dredged up a whole lot emotion and memories; reminders of many of the incidents happening during the Thatcher years – including things happening to Britons.

A lot of people were happy when Thatcher died. Can't swear to it, but I think I was indifferent. When stuff ends, then that is the time to celebrate, and a lot of it ended when Thatcher left office.


What prompted this rambling journey into Irish history was a link posted by a friend on her facebook page to a world map showing thedistribution of redheads. 

As one does, I just kept following random links and bumped into stories about the British Army's Dirty War in Ireland.


As I have often said, I do believe that when people choose to immigrate to Australia they should leave their old wars behind. Nonetheless, I must concede that once somebody dies under unjust circumstances, they remain dead and the personal truths behind those deaths do not change.

Some years ago, we gave Indigenous Australians an opportunity to tell their stories, and were willing to acknowledge their truth. This is hardly compensation, but still a fairly significant way of recognising peoples' realities. It's also a necessary first step in helping people to let go and to move on.

After the fall of apartheid in South Africa, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission served a similar function.

We are now hearing some horrible truths emerge about child abuse cover-ups – primarily by the Catholic Church. The abuse happened, it happened around the world and it happened a long time ago, but what makes it important today is that the Australian Church is yet to be honest and open and stop using double-speak to avoid admitting they phucked up. They are still awfully reluctant to see people as people -as deserving some basic respect if for no other reason than they are people.

It would be nice if the Brits acknowledge a few truths as well.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

howard zinn

Matt Damon, a lifelong friend of Howard Zinn and his family, read excerpts from a speech Howard Zinn gave in 1970 as part of a debate on civil disobedience.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

a b & w short

Have absolutely no clue why or how a few lines of this song popped into my head.

I'm sure I haven't heard it for centuries.

Some of the vidclips people post for songs are dreadful - this one is as "aw shucks" as a kitten.


Thursday, November 21, 2013


Former Magistrate Simon Cooper, who has admitted committing crimes against two young boys in the 1980s, has been given a suspended sentence.

"…In sentencing, Judge Stephen Norrish said Cooper's safety in prison posed <insurmountable difficulties>".

no respect for the law shown or deserved

Totally, totally the opposite of the appropriate sentence. Do "they" think we don't think this pig had/has any idea about the special treatment dished out to prosecutors and magistrates who are jailed?

His abuse of power and the absence of ignorance as any sort of excuse [as if it ought to be an excuse] make him less deserving of special treatment, not more.

It's time somebody reviewed Bench Books and re-wrote the rules about what should be taken into consideration when sentences are handed down.

The mere mention of homosexuality draws great outrage from the self-righteous; paedophiles? a ho-hum so-what, here we go again, stop being so bloody politically correct response.

A young Aboriginal child does time [under WA's 3 strike rule] for stealing biscuits, but this prick gets off lightly? Puhleeze.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the week that was

In a speech to our Parliament, PM Tony Abbott has explained that Australia collects intelligence because a government has a duty to protect its people. His speech implies that it's okay for us to do it because others do it too.
My mother has now returned to haunt me with her mantra…. "and if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, does that mean you should do it to?"

Julie Stepford has spent some time in Indonesia as mediator in this "little" spat. Ms Stepford reportedly said to SBY "There, there, lovey. I'm sure your failure to locate any intelligence in Canberra was not for want of trying."


The readers' forum in today's Hun [letters to the editor] reflects strong community feeling that tipping in restaurants is unAustralian and should not be made compulsory.

Perhaps I spend too much time napping – doing nothing can be tiring, believe it or not – but sometimes these "issues" appear out of nowhere. Is it a topic that was raised on the teev recently? Did I miss a headline yesterday as I flipped through the paper looking for the crossword?

En tout cas, surely compulsory tipping in eating establishments would be the equivalent of an across the board rise in prices? Surely the projected impact of compulsory tipping should be assessed on that basis?



In State politics, the opposition leader Daniel Andrews has given the Liberal incumbents an even bigger smack in the head than Fkn's rep Shaw did last week: Andrews has released a well thought out traffic action plan.

I say "well thought out" despite my reservations. At least the Labor Party have shown a little of that scarce commodity known as vision. The idea of widening the Tulla Freeway to six lanes, however, seems a little short sighted.
If there is room for widening and if we are prepared to put up with ten years of construction inconvenience, why not just run a bloody train down the centre of the freeway instead and have done with it?

As for paying for this vision by selling our Port for a few billion – it seems a little like a glimpse of the future TO and I face as old farts. What will we do for money when we run out of things to sell?

Meanwhile, despite a vague Federal pre-election promise to significantly expand mental health services, the State Government has announced plans to significantly reduce admin staff levels in the health system. Guess which area of health this will have the greatest impact on? They are nuts to consistently ignore the true cost to the economy of untreated mental illness.


And so to "schoolies" week. Given its timing, it's hard not to compare this silly phenomenon to Halloween. WTF did this "tradition" – which merely replaces ugly costumes with ugly behaviour – come from?

Is this the first generation to experience exam stress?

At the very least we should prevent these entitled yobbos from going to Bali and risking our excellent relationship with the Indonesians.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

i've a confession to make

Finally, we have a promise from Premier Naptime to do something constructive [sarcasm intended]. The 15 recommendations from the parliamentary enquiry into abuse of children in institutions include a recommendation of mandatory reporting.

There is no question that an enquiry focusing on institutional abuse – and cover ups – was necessary. There is no question that the Catholic Church in particular has a bloody lot to answer for. There is no question that in some cities or towns, an obscene number of boys/men have committed suicide over institutional abuse and cover-ups.

The recommendation for mandatory reporting has been made in the context of child sexual abuse in institutions, but it raises an important question about the sanctity or "seal" of the confessional in a whole range of areas where priests hear confessions of criminal activity.

Standard arguments in favour of keeping the seal include the probability that people will not confess at all if they know their confession can be used against them. The corollary of this is that priests will then not have a chance to counsel wrongdoers about the need to right their wrongs.

The notion of 'forgiveness' is a central tenet of Christianity [or at least the less wacko versions]. If we cannot be forgiven and/or cannot forgive ourselves, we have no incentive to try to do better in the future. If our lives are to have any purpose or meaning at all, we sometimes need to start with a clean slate. [For myself this seems an almost daily requirement].

Although I grew up in a predominantly white and Christian Australia, and in particular within an Irish 'Cartlick' community, I now live in a multi-cultural Australia and must concede that if I don't want "others" to put their own religious or cultural beliefs above the law – or at least those of our laws that do have some merit – then I should no longer accept that the seal of the confessional deserves some kind of legal protection.

The Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne has stood by the church's stance on keeping information on abuse gained through the confessional secret, despite a Victorian Parliamentary inquiry recommending withholding information relating to child abuse be criminalised.

No negotiation with the Church required.
It's time to scrap this crap altogether.

We need look no further than the behaviour of parliamentarians two minutes after they mumble their way through the Lord's Prayer for evidence that this is, in practical terms, a secular society.

But in all of this brouhaha about child abuse Christian – and particularly Catholic – religious institutions have to some extent been used as whipping boys [no pun intended]. We must not lose our sense of outrage over the acts of abuse and the compounded abuse of the way institutions have handled the original acts of abuse. But we must not let this enquiry blind us to the everyday reality of too many of our young or vulnerable people.

I am reminded of a line I heard from some comedian whose name eludes me –
"So many men were hassling me all the time, I gave in and got married. Now I find I am not even safe in my own home!"

I am not advocating excessively complex laws about the multiplicity of ways we cheat children. What we really need is a new-found respect for the common law notion of duty of care. To every one, and all the time.

Friday, November 15, 2013


The Central Moama motel had the usual folder full of important info for guests – how to make a phone call, who to ring for a pizza, a form for ordering hot breakfasts – that sort of thing.

In a what's on publication there was actually a listing for an event that was neither a week before we arrived, nor for something happening a month after we planned to leave: Yep, Friday at 4.00 pm the gates would open for the Echuca –Moama show!

To avoid the rush, we waited til about 5:30.

Each clutching a $10 entry ticket, we went through the unpersonned turnstile and set out to see the sights, soak up the atmosphere, and buy some lucky envelopes.

The first promise of fun was an adrenalin rush thingy where you climb inside a giant plastic ball and roll around smashing into whatever. Not recommended for people with hypertension, heart problems, breathing problems, bone fractures, under a certain age or height, and definitely not without a written clearance from a doctor.

Just as well we were not looking for an adrenalin rush, as the chap was still busy blowing up his balls in expectation of the crowds yet to come.

Next attraction was this. It seemed to be free, but we kept walking.

"Sideshow Alley" looked rather sad – two stalls selling showbags ranging in price from $25 to $30.
Three stalls had buckets of fairy floss for sale – possibly from the same wholesaler. Also available the usual greasy deep fried stuff – if the smell was anything to go buy, all cooked in the same oil used at the previous Echuca show.

Further along was a stall selling showbags for $6. The plastic bags containing the goodies seemed slightly perished. Didn't bother checking for use-by dates on the contents.

No lucky envelopes. The what's on entry had pictures of those clown thingys, but all we could find were archery targets [flapping in the wind] and rubber duckies with hooks.

At the holding yards there was a giant sign saying ALPACAS. Inside the holding yards were two poddy calves of the beef variety. It was then we realised the $10 entry did not include any program of events like dog or chook shows, woodchop competitions or whatever.

There was one – count it, one – death defying ride at the back of the showgrounds with not a soul around. Maybe they would crank it up the next day. No matta, I can't even watch those things without feeling nauseous.

TO was performing her own unique version of a hysterical laugh – a laugh I have not heard for months but a sure sign she was starting to relax.

Stopped at a caravan and bought two really, really nice coffees for $5 each.
Sitting at the café table, laughing hysterically at the fun we were already having and expecting, TO decided to shake her cappuccino to move the chocolate around. Bad move. We both laughed hysterically some more.

Some chap had a wagon he has been driving around Oz for a few years to raise money for cancer research – so far he has raised $25,000. His wife? was in the kitchen. I emptied my pocket of a not inconsiderable amount of shrapnel but suggested we would both pass on the sausage.

This contraption looked interesting. Harness both wind and sunshine with a single gizmo. No one around to discuss it with.

Went across to look at the DONKEY SHELTER display.

Patted a donkey named Jimmie.
"How old is he?" we asked.
"About 40 years", we were told.
"How long do donkeys live for?" we asked.
"About 40 years", we were told.
No hysterical laughter, just an animated discussion between TO and a shelter worker about advanced age and the signs and symptoms of renal failure.

24/7 there are only 3 states for me: I throw tantrums, laugh hysterically or cry uncontrollably – thank goodness the meds are working.

Tried to distract myself from Jimmie's renal failure by reading about the rescue of 91 donkeys during the Yea-Murrindindi fires. Tuned back into the conversation briefly and, hearing more about renal failure tuned out again and went back to the display board.

Read a story about one donkey that made me burst into tears. People can be real animals.

Jimmie at a nursing home in Numurkah

TO bought two doggy hampers to put under the Xmas tree for D'Arcy and Maude – not convinced we needed extra doggy bowls or more crap in the house, I suggested we leave the hampers for the Donkey shelter people to sell to someone else and just give them the money. TO bought the hampers and gave them extra money as well. An outing is not an outing without crap to take home as proof of a good time had.

On the way out TO – the only person over 5 years of age I know who will still bend over to pick up a 5 cent coin – spotted some package intacta condoms on the ground. The packaging didn't look perished, but I had no desire to check the use-by date. We laughed hysterically some more, wondering if we weren't the only ones who would find the show did not live up to its promise that night.

Left through the unattended turnstiles and gave our tickets to some people on their way in.

Next morning, the motel people suggested the show really only cranks up from about 8pm. I doubt it does, but can tick the "EM show" entry on my bucket list. I'd found a Pictionary game at an op-shop earlier for $4 – it had been a good day.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

marshall engine

fuel for paddle steamers
[prob doesn't include the fence posts]

fuel for houseboats

slipway built 1906
[not sure about boat currently occupying space]

junction of campaspe and murray rivers

remember these?

next: the Echuca show!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

munch on the murray

The weather was perfect.

Too much frivolity at the next table for me to hear a word of the commentary, but other diners were there to enjoy themselves, so fair 'nough.

Dining out is so often a disappointment, but the Emmylou's reputation for quality food is well-deserved].

TO always has the flathead tails.
Minus the batter and the 5 million chips, a good sized meal

steak I can have anytime, and chicken only if it can't be avoided
although I never eat pizza crust it was thin and crunchy
topping was char-grilled roast veges - yum
snow pea salad
chips? like padding in a 1,000 word essay on a topic that leaves one cold

pannecotta [however it's spelled]
fresh strawzbries and thick, fresh cream

banana and chocolate cheesecake [real cheese]
ditto cream and strawzbries

No cheap and nasty beans used for the coffee

An extra ten points for allowing us to pay only for what we chose from a menu – nothing grates more than pre-paid a la carte meal prices that require me to subsidise alcohol for guzzlers.

Unusually efficient and friendly service – absolutely nothing was too much trouble for Lara. She scored a once-in-a-decade tip from me [very unOrstraylyan but certainly warranted in this case].

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

what we did on our holiday

After TO spent some time visiting relos at Albury, Jindera and Corowa, she made her way to Echuca to meet up with me for the first little holiday she has had in yonks.

 [JJ's TAFE semester has almost finished, and she was free to stay home for a few days and look after Aunty.]

I luuurve Echuca, and it was great to see that restoration of the paddle steamer dock precinct continues apace – even if construction of a modern history centre is well underway.

In between lots of snoozes and well-needed naps, TO and I set off for a cruise and lunch on the PS EMMYLOU.

Without access to the 'net [and with a dose of couldn't be bothereds] I just took a few snaps, wondered what was what or why, but didn't investigate anything closely.

what's the story behind the star of david window?

"art-free" laneway that looks inviting

I think that I shall never see
a picture lovely as a peppercorn tree

flood levels
given what we have done to the Murray Darling Basin
some recent marks are incredibly high

Yep. Despite decades of trying,
I still struggle to get the top part in the picture.

Next - what we had for lunch, and other stuff

Sunday, November 3, 2013

gee, you must have been old when you were born

A few weeks ago, JJ's daughter turned 6. I'm sure sometimes that skype and facebook are the only things keeping JJ sane.

Friday was TO's 66th birthday, and Saturday was JJ's 26th, so lunch at the Fkn RiSsoLe was a rather special day.

TO had gone to buy some candles for the cake, and asked for one 2 and two 6s. "How old are YOU?" asked some little tacker in the shop. "266", TO replied. "Boy, you're REALLY old" the young man observed.

putting out the fire

A special day for JJ, as her mum and my cuz drove from Kyabram to Fkn for lunch.

It was also special because Aunty got dressed, left the house, and sat at a table socialising for 3 hours. It's almost inconceivable that 5 weeks ago Aunty was totally bedridden, but with a positive attitude, lots of medical treatments, and a gee-whiz electric bed that folds in a million spots she gets better everyday.

JJ's mum, my cuz #4,242,243, and aunty

TO's old science teacher was there, naturally. 91 years old and still going strong, she recognised 14 of her former high school students, knew them all by name and had some story to tell about each of them.

JJ is a casual aged care worker at an RSL nursing home. She has a healthy curiosity about history, etc, and has bonded well with some of the extremely old residents of the Kokoda wing. After seeing this display she'll have something else to chat about with her residents.

Yep. A very special day for lots of reasons.

Friday, November 1, 2013

it's official

She's not really an old fart... she has "a condition"